To be thankful

Thanksgiving begs for sappy gratitude posts, and I’m in no position to resist.

Family. We became a family of three this year and it’s been a heck of a ride. My highest highs, my lowest lows and everything in between. Babies bring you such an overwhelming sense of purpose and connection. They make you feel whole, and they make you discover the real meaning of love. I am thankful for the blessing of a happy and healthy baby, for access to top medical care for both of us, for the way the experience has challenged me and for how it has brought me closer to my husband. I’m thankful to have parents who support us and delight in being grandparents. I’m thankful for my brother who is a driving force in my life and sometimes the only person who can get in my head to help me sort things through.

Marriage. We’re past the 3.5 year mark since our wedding and are close to hitting eight years as a couple. We’ve grown up together and continue to grow in ways I appreciate and never anticipated. Jim, you are my better half and my grounding force in life. You are what makes me wake up happy each day and go to sleep feeling safe. I’m thankful for the love and balance you bring to my life, the wonderful father you’ve become and for your never-faltering integrity and kindness. There are lots of ups and downs on this ride but I wouldn’t want it to be with anyone else.

Work. I am thankful to work in a dynamic environment with people who truly have become a second family. It is a rarity to be able to say that, and to have had their support when I became a mom was invaluable. There are lots of frustrating moments and hard weeks, but I’m privileged to learn from all different kinds of people and to be pushed at every turn.

My body. Have you ever pondered how insane the human body is? Straight-up magic. I’ve always marveled at what my body is capable of and love pushing myself physically. The past year this awareness soared as I not only carried a baby (STILL blows my mind that people make other people), but also learned the value of functional fitness and training. I’m thankful for my health and what my body provides.

Friends. Friends are family, no way around it; life would be an incomplete puzzle without them. I’m thankful to have so many incredible, loving, hilarious and inspiring friends who show up when it matters most.

Stillness. It’s fleeting to have moments of stillness and quiet these days, so I’m especially thankful when they occur. Introverts rely on alone time to recharge and I’m no exception.

Dogs. My dogs have taken the inevitable backseat following baby’s arrival, but they’re as loving and loyal as ever. They’re loud and messy and wonderful.

Writing. I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to think and share on this blog, for all the support and encouragement. And for the opportunity to truth-tell and help others feel ok.

I think beyond anything I could list here, I’m just thankful for the life I’ve been given and the places it has taken me. The people I’ve met. The challenges I’ve overcome. The love I’ve experienced and the losses I’ve learned from. I’m thankful for how it all weaves together.

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The answer is YES.

I haven’t had a ton of inspiration to write lately. I’m tired and distracted; bobbing along mindlessly in a pre-holiday stupor.

I hit these phases from time to time where I become my own cynic and start asking myself why I bother with this…this writing thing. Week after week, year after year, page after page.

Then, BLAMMO.

I just got smacked in the face with unsolicited inspiration from one of my favorite writers. I guess this is my answer.

The answer is YES. You should write. Even though everything’s already been said beautifully. Even though there’s nothing new under the sun. Even so. Because there may be nothing new to say, but if you haven’t spoken up yet – then there is a new VOICE to hear. That’s all we have – our voices. No two are the same. No one sees the world QUITE like you do, and no one else can tell us your story QUITE like you could. You are our only chance to know you. You’re it. If you yearn to use your voice and you don’t – we will all suffer for it. Be brave. Be audacious enough to consider that your story is worth telling and your voice is worth hearing. The secret it- it IS. Your story and your voice are worthy of occupying some space in this world. Take it, Sister. Take your space.

What I don’t say enough: Thank you for reading. Thank you, thank you. I appreciate it and I need your support…even though I’ll likely brush off your compliments and act like it’s no big deal. I have this tendency to change the subject and act like writing is just something I do like folding laundry. But it’s actually a pretty huge deal to me and a delicate thing, sharing myself.

I don’t like to be vulnerable emotionally naked, but tonight it feels ok to admit that I need you. I need you to read and I need your support. I stockpile it so that when I hit a blech week of non-spiration I can keep the dream afloat that one day I’ll use my words for more. I don’t know how that will unfold–not a clue. I just know that everything in me wants to reach more people through writing–I long to find ways to help others and make connections and just do good, passionate stuff with my words.

I want to make others feel the way I felt tonight after reading the exact words I needed to hear.

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oversharing is for lovers

I hope that at least one person saw the title of this post and hoped it would be an awkward confession.

If that’s you, I apologize. This is not that.

Today I was thinking about how my college journalism professors always stressed the importance of not letting writing become too personal or emotional. It was emphasized to the point of completely stressing me out, and it made me write like a black and white cartoon robot. There was a presumed fear among my classmates of the disasters we knew would wreak havoc on our careers if we lapsed in judgement on this rule. And while this approach does make for less-biased, stronger newswriting, it also whittles away the soul of a story. Writers write because we treasure the experience of expressing our thoughts and feelings, so removing that aspect can feel crippling. This is why I’m not a reporter.

Culturally, lots of situations urge us to shift our focus away from the human aspect of things, to keep them simple and business-like. As a result, things like a performance review, medical diagnosis or customer service interaction can become mechanical–utterly predictable–like both sides were given a script. Participating in these prescribed, robotic conversations makes me feel like I’m campaigning for mayor of a small southern town. (I’m wearing seersucker and a straw hat in this disastrous fantasy.)

Needless to say, I’m not good at being formal, and I hate when things feel rehearsed (adios, political aspirations!). I love telling stories and voicing my feelings and thoughts ad nauseam. It’s a privilege to share things in a way that makes you vulnerable enough to connect with others. Maybe this is revolutionary, or maybe I’m a hopeless oversharer.

The personal part of a moment or experience is usually what makes it worth remembering. We lose that if we break everything down to facts and figures. I’m in favor of making things more personal than what feels comfortable; going out on a limb and saying what instinctively feels right rather than what the textbook or status quo dictates. When we’re honest and humble, it’s amazing how quickly everything else falls into place.

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It’s like a free playbook for life.

Life’s funny sometimes.

Yesterday, I flipped to a radio station I never listen to and heard Carolina in My Mind by James Taylor. A half hour later, I received two tickets, out of the blue, to see the Cardinals play the Carolina Panthers this weekend. And my husband’s name is James Taylor.

This evening, there was a man outside my gym with a sign stating he was a homeless veteran looking for help. I searched my car and didn’t even have a dollar to give him, or any water or snacks. I usually keep these available for this type of situation and felt awful I had nothing to give. I spent my workout wondering how I could help more veterans. When I got home, there was a flier in the mail showing ways to support a local program that helps veterans in need.

It was a long day at work today, the kind where your basic needs (food and bathroom breaks) may not be met. I was feeling kind of blah, and entertaining all kinds of thoughts on my drive home. Am I doing what I should be? Is this the right career path? Then I checked my email, and saw a note from my internship supervisor from my senior year in college. I haven’t heard from him in years, but he had come across a piece I wrote during my internship in 2005 and wanted to share it with me. It was crazy to read something I’d written so long ago about a really memorable experience. It was exactly what I needed to shake the static out of my head. I love what I do, and that was my reality check.

Taking this particular internship was an impromptu decision that directly impacted my career path. It’s strange that seemingly inconsequential events and actions can come together to guide our course.

Things are simpler than we tend to make them, and life isn’t as intense as it sometimes seems. Lately, the more I open my mind to the signs and opportunities all around me, the more connections I find. It’s like a free playbook for life, where the more you believe it, the easier it gets.  And I dig it.

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Going out with a passive-aggressive bang!

For the past year, I’ve done some mindless freelance writing for extra money. I’ve been debating the value of this for months, and today, I quit.

email from project manager:

Good Morning,

Last Wednesday I sent out an email with the subject line “Quality of Content.” This was an important email, and towards the end I asked all of you to reply, confirming that you read and understand the email. You are receiving this email because you did not reply to that email.

I am giving everyone to the end of the workday today to reply to that email (do not respond to this email), and tomorrow I will be giving the list of names to my department manager. If you no longer write for us, I would appreciate a quick reply letting me know you should be taken off of the writers list.

-Brandon

my response:

Brandon,

Thanks for the reminder email, and sorry for not responding sooner. I recognize your frustration in managing a remote workforce of freelancers–I have no idea how you do it–sounds like it’s as enjoyable as wrangling stray, deranged cats.

For the past few months, I’ve tried to assume positive intent with the company’s repeated emails, the tech issues with Process Maker and the overall disorganization in all processes. That being said, it was your last note that’s ultimately pushing me to cease my working relationship with [company name deleted, I’m not a total jerk].

I’m going to make like Jerry Maguire and take off with my fishbowl in tow. I’d love to shout, “Who’s coming with me?” as I virtually stomp out, but it lacks emphasis over email.

All kidding aside, you guys are growing quickly doing great work for clients, and I hope to return to writing for you at some point. Right now, however, I’ve decided life’s too short to deal with the added work and worries. Maybe it’s because it’s a national day of remembrance, and the timing of your message was unfortunate. Or maybe it’s because I doubt that on my deathbed I ever would lament not writing enough press releases. Either way, you and I have never met, likely never will, and this is entirely too lengthy of an email for its purposes. Even as I’m writing this, I’m still not sure why I feel compelled to share any of this with a stranger, other than the fact that it will make an entertaining post on my blog tonight.

I have a journalism degree from a prestigious j-school and an MBA, and I’ve worked in communications for government agencies, elected officials and Fortune-500 companies. I’ve had my writing published in lots of national websites, even the holy grail of Huff Post. Nevertheless, I had some absurd urge to cross a self-imposed paid-freelance-writer barrier. I’m not sure what I was trying to prove, or if I succeeded, but the process has shown me that paychecks don’t equate to quality writing, and that writing for pleasure will always trump assignments. Frankly, even writing this email has been more fun than any of the PR content I generated over the past year.

I engaged in this venture for a new step in personal growth (and some extra cash), but it’s slowly become something I dread. Like homework. Or a dentist appointment. Something that’s important and beneficial but far from enjoyable. I thank you for the opportunity and wish you luck with future writer wrangling.

Please accept this as my formal peacing out. Hope the subtle humor at least made you smile and not want to slam your head into your desk. If you even read this far.

-Jessica

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What are you singing? Is that Thriller?

Me: What are you singing? Is that Thriller?
Jim: No, Rob and Big.
Me: The TV show? Oh, the best friend song?
Jim: No. Wait – Rob and Big sing that song? That’s them?
Me: What’s them?
Jim: Is it Robin Big?
Me: Who? Wait. Are you talking about Robin Thicke…?

There’s something deliciously entertaining about the confusion of a simple miscommunication.

I work in communications, and while amusing at times, it can be a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s wonderful to refine the art of interpersonal relationships–a privilege even–to connect people to information, dispel fears and enlighten.

On the other hand, it’s distressing to be aware of how the subtlest words and gestures can derail a well thought-out message. And when you have to share really hard news, things that take an emotional toll on you, that’s not comfortable for anyone. You know when a dog cringes and howls at a noise you can’t even hear? Well, I have canine-esque hearing for run-on sentences and misleading information.  I couldn’t stop editing the world around me if I tried, and my standards for how people should talk to one another are a pipe dream.

Communications is more than what first meets the eye. My interpretation of an email, a news broadcast or even a menu doesn’t stop at its words; it expands to consider why things are presented a certain way, who a message is intended for and the author’s intent.

Most people don’t dedicate their careers to improving the exchange of words and ideas, this I know. Even so, I often find myself questioning the outcomes of situations, and what could’ve happened if things were presented differently or heard another way. Even considering how we listen–whether to understand or to reply–makes a world of difference.

To communicate effectively, you must think beyond your words and what you’re trying to say, and instead look at what you’d like to achieve. What path, tools and structure will ultimately get you to your end goal? It’s not about stating what you feel or explaining what you want; it’s about creating an environment where information and thoughts can be shared and received openly.

It’s not easy. Ahem, IT IS NOT EASY. But when it works, man–it’s pure goodness. It’s what makes my mojo go. A remarkable thing happens when connections are made and results achieved, simply by altering how information and feelings are presented.

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Beware the robot blog spam furthermore produce?

These are, verbatim, the most recent spam comments on my blog. I don’t know enough about phishing scams or bad people to understand if these constitute effective strategies. But I think they’re hysterical.

1. Dirt mounds and rock piles can way too indicate the status of a cesspool. Warranted Success: What to produce people happy?

2. M., than it is to I-70 and furthermore Grand Junction, Colo. Artists put on a variety of materials and resources for creating statues.

3. It provides two to help deploy the software package. Place on towards the exact tragedy of being for that life of your levels and characters.

4. These kind images can be found painted musically throughout the watch. Chances akin to inheriting just very own kind of adoration music are unusual.

5. Every individual has the to claim insurance benefits. Every party would feel that your ex boyfriend or she might be entitled to this specific and that.

6. These items are maintaining these data’s for long run use. It inspires an individual to improve the fine quality of his deliver the results and become good than others.

I guess by reading and sharing these, I’m not really helping the cause, but I so want to meet the person (or robot software) that generates these, give him or her (or it) a lot of booze, and see what kinds of creative genius we can create.